Deciding whether to go with cable or satellite television doesn't have to be a complicated decision. The first step in comparing the two types of services is to find out if both cable and satellite are options for your home or apartment. The next step is determining which features are most important to you.
Cable and satellite both require equipment for service. For cable television, subscribers need receiver boxes attached to each television. Satellite subscribers need a satellite dish mounted outside their home in addition to receiver boxes attached to each television. DVR boxes are also available for cable and satellite and can often be leased for an additional fee. Users who do not want to use the cable company's DVR can opt for a TiVo instead.
The cost of television programming is based on packages of channels, rather than individual channels. Companies try to offer a wide range of packages with varying numbers of channels to appeal to all consumers and budgets. Cable television is typically more expensive than satellite programming because local franchise fees are added to local cable costs. Consider installation and equipment costs when making your determination. Many cable providers offer free installation. Some cable providers include up to four receivers with service. While satellite equipment can be expensive, major satellite providers often offer free or deeply discounted equipment if you sign a contract.
Satellite providers typically only offer local programming in larger cities. If you live in a smaller city and want local television programming, you need to stick with cable or invest in an HD antenna in addition to your satellite equipment. The number of channels cable and satellite providers support ranges from more than 300 for cable to more than 250 for satellite.
If you live in a remote area where cable providers have not laid cable, your only real choice for television programming is satellite. If your house was never wired for cable, but cable is available in your area, you could pay someone to wire your house, adding to the installation costs. Conversely, if you live in a multifamily dwelling, such as an apartment or condo, and your association does not allow satellite dishes, cable is your only option. Another restriction with satellite service is the location of the satellite dish. It must be facing south with a clear line of sight.
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